The theme of my morning sermon last Sunday was peace, specifically the peace that Christ came to give us who live in a world filled with conflict and strife. We looked at Luke 2:8-14, especially the words of the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born. They praised God by singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).
What is that peace, exactly, that has come to us with the birth of Jesus? It isn’t peace between nations, at least not yet. When Jesus returns to earth he will establish a new heavens and new earth in which all people will be at peace with one another, forever. On that day the prophecy of Isaiah will come true, the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4). So the Prince of Peace will reign over a world free from warfare, but we wait for that day and in the meantime we pray that God would mercifully bring peace where there is bloodshed.
The same can be said for all the ways conflict mars human relations, from mild tension between friends to acts of violence committed out of rage and hatred. Who hasn’t experienced conflict in this world? We’ve all been at odds with others, and when we are, we long for peace. But until Jesus returns and makes us perfect in holiness and righteousness, as sinners we’re going to cause or exacerbate conflict with others. Thankfully we have in Christ hope for biblical conflict resolution – forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing of strained relationships should and can be the experience of believers in the Body of Christ.
But conflict among people is just a symptom of a far deeper problem – as sinners, we are not at peace with God. Our sin has alienated us from our Creator who made us to find our life and joy in fellowship with him. We have not only rebelled against him (Scripture says we are his “enemies”, Romans 5:10), but God has withdrawn his presence from us since no one who is not perfect in holiness can enjoy communion with him. By nature we are at war with God, if even only in our hearts, and the result is a profound spiritual uneasiness, a gnawing anxiety within us that banishes peace from our hearts and minds.
The “good news of a great joy” that the angels proclaimed to the shepherds was that a baby was born who would make peace between God and sinners. Jesus was born to die in our place, and in that death he has reconciled God to us. Now, by faith in Christ, we can joyfully come into the presence of God knowing that he is at peace with us. No more guilt, no more condemnation (Romans 8:1). We can enjoy the sweet repose of a conscience fully at ease. And, even in the midst of life’s worries and struggles, we can experience the wonderful peace “which surpasses all understanding” as take we our concerns to God in prayer.
Are you at peace with God? Or does the incessant voice of an uneasy conscience remind you that your sin has made a separation between God and you (Isaiah 59:2)? God has given us the gift of his Son Jesus that we might find true and eternal peace. Believe in him, and you will know for yourself what the Scriptures mean when they call God, “the God of peace” (Hebrews 13:20).
Soli Deo Gloria!